NC man rescued in Atlanta; abduction related to daughter’s work as prosecutor, investigators say
WAKE FOREST, N.C. — An elaborate kidnapping plot that targeted a Wake Forest, North Carolina, man ended with his dramatic rescue in Atlanta by an FBI hostage squad around midnight Wednesday, law enforcement said Thursday.
Frank Arthur Janssen is receiving medical treatment but is safe after being held captive for five days by five people who face federal kidnapping charges, according to law enforcement officials who held a news conference in Wake Forest.
The kidnappers sent demands to Janssen’s family “for the benefit” of Kelvin Melton, an inmate at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, read an affidavit in support of a search warrant related to criminal complaints against the defendants.
Melton is serving a life sentence without parole, said FBI North Carolina special agent John Strong. It was not immediately clear for what.
Janssen’s daughter, an assistant district attorney in Wake County, had prosecuted Melton, officials said.
The affidavit details threats sent via text to Janssen’s wife and daughters, a drama that underscores Strong’s description of the kidnappers at the news conference. He called them “very dangerous people.”
On Monday at 1:51 a.m., Janssen’s wife, Christie, began to receive text messages from a phone number with an Atlanta area code, the affidavit says. The messages said her husband had been kidnapped.
One text said her husband was in the trunk of a car en route to California.
Another threatened her, saying that if she contacted law enforcement, “we will send [Janssen] back to you in 6 boxes and every chance we get we will take someone in your family to Italy and torture and kill them … we will do a drive by and gun down anybody…and throw a grenade in your window.”
If the kidnappers demands were not met, her husband would be hurt, the texts promised.
The five facing charges are: Jenna Paulin Martin, Tiana Maynard, Clifton James Roberts and Jevante Price — also known as “Flame” and Michael Montreal Gooden — also known as “Hot,” according to court documents.
Don Connelly, law enforcement coordinator with the U.S. attorney’s office, tells CNN that pleas have not been entered.
Authorities told CNN none of the defendants has retained counsel.
Threatening texts to wife
On April 5 a woman knocked on Janssen’s door, and when he opened it, several people jumped him and used a Taser to subdue him, according to the affidavit. The attackers dragged him to their car and took off, crossing into Georgia, the document shows.
Janssen’s wife knew that her husband was going out for a bike ride Saturday, but when she came home that day after a shopping outing to find he’d not returned, she grew alarmed, according to a news release from Wake Forest. She saw what appeared to be drops of blood outside their house, it said, and called police.
On April 9, Christie Janssen received another text from a different number which also had an Atlanta area code, the affidavit said. That message included a photo of her husband bound and seated in a chair.
Another text came: “Tomorrow we will call you again an (sic) if you can not tell me where my things are at tomorrow i will start torchering (sic)” Frank Janssen.
“If we find out the police seen this will kill both people now and go for you (sic) family,” the text read, suggesting another person had been abducted.
One of the numbers connected to the kidnapping was identified as transmitting messages from Polk Correctional Institution, according to the affidavit, and the user of that particular number placed 99 calls to Melton’s daughters.
Melton’s girlfriend told law enforcement that that number belonged to the inmate, the affidavit said.
‘Get a bag, put it over his head’
Law enforcement monitored calls between that number and another involved in the kidnapping, the affidavit detailed.
According to the document, two male callers could be heard saying:
“The first spot we are checking out is close to the house.”
“We want to make sure it’s in a secluded area and the ground is soft so we can go 3 feet deep.”
“Get a bag, put it over his head, and stuff something in his mouth.”
“However you feel like doing it, just do it.”
“Make sure to clean the area up. Don’t leave anything. Don’t leave any DNA behind.”
“Get some night time medication and make him go to sleep.”
“Make him drink the whole bottle of Nyquil.”
“Let’s do it in the wee hours of the morning.”
“Make sure it is not a half-assed job. Get bleach and throw it on the walls. Maybe do it in the closet.”
After that conversation, authorities tried to enter Melton’s prison cell to find the phone number used in the communications. Melton tried to bar the door and smashed the phone, the affidavit says.
Later, at 10:40 p.m. April 9, law enforcement monitored a conversation between two callers who stated, “FBI helicopters are outside. We gotta get rid of holmes.”
A woman can be heard saying, “I’m not going anywhere, FBI are all over.”
While the search was on for Janssen in Atlanta, law enforcement traced one of the phone numbers to a residence in Austell, Georgia, belonging to Tiana Maynard. She was not there, but her children were, and law enforcement took them into protective custody, the affidavit said.
Shortly after Janssen was rescued, Clifton Roberts drove a blue Chevy Tahoe with Maynard and Jenna Martin to a police station to get Maynard’s children. Inside the Tahoe, law enforcement saw picks, shovels and a .45-caliber pistol, according to the affidavit.
In connection with the search of Atlanta residences linked to the threatening text messages, officers questioned Price and Gooden, the affidavit details.
Price “revealed his awareness of the kidnapping and acknowledged that he and Gooden were supposed to be the ‘night watch’ over the victim,” the document states.
Price led agents to the Forest Cove apartment complex in southeast Atlanta where Janssen was rescued, according to officials.
A father reunited with family, a shaken DA office
Janssen has been reunited with his family, officials said Thursday. After he was freed, doctors evaluated him, agent Strong said, adding that he is receiving medical care.
The FBI in Charlotte and Atlanta, the Wake Forest Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are continuing to investigate the case, along with other law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and Georgia.
Ned Mangum, district attorney for Wake County confirmed to CNN that Colleen Janssen works in his office.
“This is different from anything we’ve ever had to my knowledge in the state of North Carolina,” he said. “I’ve been in this court house for 16 years and, unfortunately from time to time, there are threats made to court house officials. You rarely see threats against people’s family and certainly rarely see something with this much precision.”
He said his staff is “incredibly professional” and handles serious cases but “this one really affected us because it’s one of our own,” he said. “I’ve never seen our office as anxious as the past several days and I’m so proud of them for not saying anything to compromise the investigation.”